Introduction (get .pdf)
Two highly successful, incredibly creative and original overlapping careers. What I find most intriguing about these two individuals is their careers are launched by what are arguably the most pivotal and significant events of the 20th century : World War 2 and the Space Age. In my investigation below I will examine their lives quid pro quo – the significant decades of each one’s career from inception to recognition as giants in their field.
Early Life and Education
Ronald Searle was born in Cambridge March 3, 1920, by age five Searle could draw credibly and professionally at 15. His formal art education started at The Cambridge School of Art and received his Minister of Education Drawing Diploma in 1939, but enlisted in the Territorial Army as an Architectural Draughtsman. Then for two years his continued to submit drawings and cartoons to newspapers and magazines, this included a prototype St Trinian’s. In October 1941 he was mobilised and shipped to Singapore were he stayed until the end of the War.
Philippe Starck was born in Paris 1949 and studied at l’Ecole Nissim de Camondo, Paris from 1965 to 1981, but since he started his first company in 1968 I don’t think he we in full-time education for all that time. Most of Starck early life was spent under his father’s drawing board sawing, cutting and glue. Anything he got his hands on, he would take apart and try to put but together again. I think this shows he has a very analytical mind and is very creative.
They were both creative from a young age and both attended colleges for their courses, the only difference in their training is that Searle was at college for a short time compared to Starck, probably because of Starck’s Architecture and Interior training. In the UK this equates to 3 years BA architecture then 3 years on top, plus work experience.
Design Influences of their Worlds
In Searle’s childhood Britain he world have grown up with early Radio since the BBC started programs in 1922. Also in December that year the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was founded after the Bolsheviks had their ultimate victory. He also would had seen the rise of the three dictatorships that would shape the world of the future and have a big influence on Searle’s work.
Starck was born at a time when Europe was being rebuilt after the Second War and France was in its Fourth Republic, although nine years after Starck was born France adopted a new constitution and entered its fifth Republic with Charles de Gaulle elected as president.
They both were born and grow up in times of great political change around the world and at home. These changes didn’t affect them both in the same way, where for Starck this would become a faint memory, for Searle the changes became life threatening.
In 1939 the Second World War broke out in Europe and 2 years later Searle was shipped to Singapore to the real thing, Singapore being a heavy guarded British naval base, a symbol of British imperial power. The Japanese on the 8 December, 1941 landed in Southern Thailand and northern Malaya and quickly marched towards Singapore. The British defenders surrendered Singapore to the Japanese on the 15 February 1942 and Searle became a prisoner of War.
At this time he did some of his most emotional work, seeing the horror’s of war must have changed Searle, but since he did little before we can’t tell and like most POW’s he probably didn’t like to discuses it.
Having avoided the intensity of Wartime Starck was a student from in the 60s and 70s and clearly the spirit of optimistic, invincible expansionism embodied by the ‘Space Age’ would have influenced his generation as profoundly. If you look Philippe Starck up in a French Encyclopaedia, it would say;
Starck (Philippe), designer et architecte d’intérieur français (Paris 1949). Créateur de series de meubles et d’objets d’une structure simple, mais inventive, il est attaché à l’expression symbolique des formes comme de l’espace.
Starck (Philippe), French designer and interior designer (Paris 1949). Creator of pieces of furniture and series of objects of simple but inventive structure, and associated with symbolic expression of space-age forms.
Searle while in the POW draws the other soldiers and the Japanese soldier, an artist draws to escape, Starck has tracing paper pad near at had. I had wondered were did Searle get his paper from unless the Japanese liked his drawings.
After the war Searle tours East Europe, drawing in London, Yugoslavia and Poland showing the destruction for the War in his backgrounds especially the drawing called ‘The Ruins of Warsaw’, but mainly he draw the people that were left in the wake of the war, I think this was him recovering from the POW camp in Singapore. But on the other hand he was all this time he was sending the comedy, St Trinian’s work to the publishers.
In 1976 Starck did the interior design for the Paris night-club, La Main Bleue, although this is his fist major project with this he has proved his worth is my be nearly 30 years old, but as with most Starck design it’s timeless.
In 1978 Interior design for the Paris night-club, Les Bains Douches, this night club looks much more 70s I would have said he had less room too express his style, in most of Starck work he has imploded him self and is selling under his own brand. But this was early work. The year after in 1979 Starck founds the ‘Starck Product Company’
Increasingly with Starck’s work we see an irreverence and humour that feeds back into the creative cycle. A rugged self-publicist Starck is seen in a knight’s suit of armour and other poses, often contrasting huge apparent egocentricity and yet at the same time self-mocking and humble.
Searle travels on New York to draw, he draws the slums and the glitz of city, I like the drawing ‘The old Savoy Dance Hall’ it has such movement and Broadway.
In 1959 Searle travelled to Italy to see the plight of the Refugees from the USSR in the camps as part of a United Nations High Commissioner envoy. The pictures he drawings made up part of the notes for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.
1981, in this year Starck leaves the School ‘l’école Nissim de Camodo’, and designs the ‘Président M table’ for President Mitterrand’s private study in the élysée Palace. An awesome achievement for a relatively young designer, Starck must have made a huge impression in French design circles to get this commission.
In 1982 Starck Interior designs for the Dallas night-club he named Starck Club, I believe this project was to set Starck up as an international designer. This could have paid off because that same year Starck begins designing furniture for the Italian company ‘Driade’.
Refurbishes President Mitterrand’s private apartments from 1983 to 83 in the élysée Palace, the President liked him so much last time he employed him again.
Architecture in 1987: Le Moult House a private house in Paris and his first of many house designs. This house is also one of those timeless designs by Starck.
1988 Interior design: Royalton Hotel, New York; Café Mystique, Tokyo; La Cigale concert hall, Paris. Other work includes: Lola Mundo table-cum-chair for Driade; Ara table lamp for Flos.
1989 Architecture: Nani Nani office building, Tokyo. Other work includes: first of several boats for Beneteau; toothbrush for Fluocaril.
Searle travels back to America, to cover the ‘The Presidential Election Campaign’ for Life Magazine as an illustrator on both sides of the ‘Nixonites’ and ‘On the road with Kennedy’, I especially like the incisive wit of the caricatured ‘Nixonites’
Subsequently he takes notes at the trial of Adolph Eichmann, I assume what he is drawing in these few pictures is how it was, but the expression of the people behind Adolph Eichmann it one of hate and loathing, while Adolph seems to be in complete blissful ignorance of his surroundings.
After this he illustrated a book called Take one Toad… a book of Ancient Remedies an example of one:
DEATH and suchlike afflictions of some severity.
For not allowing death to come and fetch a man:
Recite the names of the gods seven times each over all their drawings, and hang the drawings around the neck of the man for whose benefit the charm was made. He will be protected from all misfortune.
Searle’s humour and observational skills are two facets of the same strength. Humour is invariably about acute observation of the painful, and with the perspective provided by the drawing paper, we – the fortunate observers – are able to distance ourselves from the situation, and smile.
From these inspirational beginnings, both men’s careers continued delight generations to come. While Searle’s legacy is a copious body of work of profound insight and wit, Starck’s productivity and success goes from strength to strength. Just his tally of successes in the nineties is impressive:
1990 Architecture: Asahi Beer Hall, Tokyo. Interior design: Paramount Hotel, New York; Resraurant Teatriz, Madrid. Other work includes: Juicy Salif lemon squeezer for Alessi; Dr Glob chair for Kartell
1991 Architecture: école des Beaux-Arts, Paris. Interior: Hugo Boss boutique, Paris
1992 Architecture: Le Baron Vert office block, Osaka, Japan. Interior design: Salon Coppola hairdressing salon. Milan. Other work includes: Louis XX stachable chair for Vitra; Miss Lee energy-saving light for Flos
1993 Interior design: Groningen Museum, the Netherlands. Other work includes: Dadada stool for OWO
1994 Architecture: kit houses for “3 Suisses” mail-order catalogue. Interior design: Felix Restaurant and Oyster Bar, Peninsula Hotel, Hong Kong. Other work includes: Lord Yo stackable armchair for Driade; bathroom furniture for Duravit
1995 Architecture: école Nationale des Arts Décoratifs, Paris; Formentera House (private house), Spain. Interior design: Delano Hotel, Miami; Theatron Restaurant, Mexico. Other work includes: Moto 6,5 motorbike for Aprilia; Plasma ultra-flat TV for Thomson
1996 Architecture: Placi do Arango Jr House (private house), Madrid; design for incineration plant at Vitry, France. Interior design: Mondrian Hotel, Los Angeles. Other works includes: Dr No stackable chair for Kartell; Faitoo kitchen utensils for Alessi; Oa table lamp for Flos; Alo voice-command for Thomson; eyeglasses for Mikli; Partoo portable TV for Saba
1997 Architecture: air traffic control tower for Bordeaux-Merignac Airport, France
1998 to present Launches Good Goods mail order range with La Redoute.
And yet while Starck’s objects are often a source of humour, how can I end an academic discussion of Searle’s work without a tribute to St Trinians: